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AI and Robots Have Officially Entered the Fitness Industry

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AI and Robots Have Officially Entered the Fitness Industry

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Could robots be the future of a technology-driven fitness industry?

As the hype about robots and artificial intelligence grows, we’re getting more comfortable with having it integrated into our lives. Our good friends Alexa and Siri are keeping us informed, and helpful bots are chatting us up on the websites we visit every day. Meanwhile, our every step, calorie and workout is logged in fitness apps that promise to use AI to help us achieve the “perfect workout.”

But more changes are on the horizon, and all signs show that the fitness industry is poised for disruption. Here’s the latest on AI and robots in the fitness arena, plus insights into what’s ahead.

Robot Trainers, Anyone?

We’re still figuring out where robots actually fit into our lives. One camp (famously headed by Elon Musk), argues that robots are going to wipe us out, take our jobs and replace our relationships with other humans. But other innovators stress that robots will make our lives better. A new breed of “robot trainers” look to achieve the latter by motivating us just like a human trainer does—only “smarter.”

A group of scientists from the University of Tokyo are in the process of creating humanoid robots that work out the same way that humans do. The robots can do push-ups, crunches, chin-ups, stretches and even sweat just like we do. The goal isn’t necessarily to replace human trainers, but to better understand how our bodies work when we hit the gym.

The Gymbot, another robot trainer, is part trainer, part tracker. The bot helps users get motivated to move by prompting them to work out, conducting health real-time health checks and correcting your negative behaviors.

Apps That Change How You Train

There’s no shortage of fitness-tracking tools like FitBit or MyFitnessPal. But as our AI capabilities develop, apps are using this new power to become more customized and insightful about your training experience. Here are a couple notable apps to keep on your radar.

  • ai is a fitness motivator created by San Diego-based Rock My World. The tool relies on Facebook Messenger to interact with the user, and during workouts, the AI responds with friendly encouragement or, if you’re lagging behind, even a bit of snark. According to Co-Founder Adam Riggs-Zeigen, the tool is designed to be used on a daily basis. It’s friendly and offers an element of competition through the use of MovePoints, an in-app scoring system that compares your activity with friends or other app users.
  • The first piece of wearable technology for combat sports, PiQ is a “robot” that attaches to your boxing glove and syncs with an app. The app provides feedback on your uppercuts and left hooks, including pointers for improvement.

Smarter Wearables on the Horizon

CES 2018 saw an influx of wearables that extend beyond the fitness band or the smartwatch. How do they improve upon our current experience with smartwatches and trackers? By leveraging the power of AI to provide deeply personalized experiences as we exercise.

  • E-skin isn’t quite ready to take over department store shelves, but the Lycra-type fabric shows a considerable amount of promise. The synthetic skin is filled with sensors that can do the work of multiple wearables at one time. One example is the Xenoma/Hugo Boss collaboration, which resulted in an e-skin designed specifically to track your performance while playing golf.
  • Smart shoes offer many of the benefits you’ll find with a smart band. The major difference is that the data gathered is geared toward running. Smart shoes feature chips that track things like speed and distance, as well as the number of calories burned during your workout. Does that sound like old news? Guess again. New smart shoes like the Boltt evaluate your running style and offer ways you can improve your technique, helping you avoid injuries and maximize the benefits of your workout.
  • Smart fitness wear has been buzzing for a few years now. But we’re just starting to see examples that feel more, well, wearable. WearableX has developed a line of smart yoga pants that pair with the Nadi Yoga app. Together, the pants and the app guide yogis who can’t make it to a class through a series of poses, offering gentle guidance through their flow. Meanwhile, Garmin and Mi Pulse have developed sports bras that come equipped with a heart rate monitor, which can help women get the most out of their workout, without the need to carry an extra tool.

Nutrition In the Palm of Your Hand

In addition to the now-ubiquitous wearables and data-tracking devices, we’re also seeing more apps designed to help us better care for our bodies.

  • The KingFit app, designed specifically for diabetes management, tracks glucose levels throughout the day. Thanks to AI, users are given customized eating plans, plus an assortment of reminders and push notifications that help them maintain a healthy diet.
  • FitGenie’s goal is to automate nutrition planning. The app uses AI to self-adjusts based on what you’ve consumed that day, using your data to tailor meal plans geared toward weight loss, muscle-building or burning fat.

The use of data for tracking everything from calories consumed to calories burned is already a ubiquitous part of our fitness experience. This data is precisely what AI uses to offer us smarter, more personalized fitness tools.  But the upside of tracking our performance and progress also comes with some risks. Just days ago, Under Armour’s popular app, MyFitnessPal, suffered a massive data breach in which more than 150 million users’ passwords, logins and other data sets were compromised.

How will developers, vendors, social media channels and companies use the data we’re providing with every step, weigh-in and logged workout? That question, and the larger impact of bots and AI on our privacy, is yet to be answered. But in the meantime, AI is running full speed into the future—and taking the fitness industry along for an exciting ride.

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